The four-time Major winner has now gone five full seasons without winning a Major after missing the cut at Royal Portrush

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Where Does Rory McIlroy Go From Here?

The 148th Open Championship will be remembered for a number of different stories, but undoubtedly one of the biggest will be that of Rory McIlroy.

Playing in an Open in his home country of Northern Ireland for the first time, McIlroy collapsed in dramatic fashion with a 79 on day one.

His 65 on Friday was sublime but the fact that even that couldn’t even see him into the weekend is evidence of just how bad his Thursday score was.

McIlroy has been building up to this week for months, years in fact, calling it “the biggest event of my life,” earlier this year.

He missed the Irish Open for the first time since 2007 to aide his chances but the simple fact is that he played infinitely better on Friday after a bottle of wine the night before than he did on Thursday after months of meticulous preparation and carefully thought out scheduling.

“When someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking,” said the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

McIlroy did choke in round one and he did miss the cut in the biggest event of his life, but he showed golf and sports fans just how incredible he is as both a golfer and a person on Friday.

Tearfully he told Sky Sports’ Tim Barter, “part of me is disappointed not to be here for the weekend,” before taking a moment.

“Part of me disappointed, emotional but happy with how I played.

“I didn’t play my part,” he said, holding back tears, “but everyone in Northern Ireland played theirs.”

McIlroy’s countryman Darren Clarke stormed off in a huff after missing the cut himself.

Contrast that to an emotional Rory who spent some 45 minutes doing media commitments before signing autographs and endearing himself to the public in a way that we have never seen before from a golfer in this generation.

He has always been a marmite character in the golfing world, and I don’t know why that is, but I think these two days on the links will have made him loved by everyone.

So, where does he go from here?

It’s hard to ignore the fact that he has now gone five full seasons without a Major victory after a scintillating spell from 2011-2014 that saw him win four big ones and quite simply dominate the game.

Five years later and his four-Major tally hasn’t been overtaken by any of his younger peers but Brooks Koepka has equalled that total and the likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and co. have had their moments.

Rory is now 30 and an age where he can still go on to eclipse what he achieved in his 20s but does something need to change to help him begin achieving his goals?

It’s difficult to remember the last time he held the lead late-on in a Major so something has certainly been not quite right when it comes round to the big ones.

He commented on the “momentum” he had in round two at Royal Portrush, wishing that he had that on day one, but with momentum and confidence he is nigh-on impossible to beat.

His swing is text book and works every week of the year, just not on the 1st tee of an Open at Portrush with out-of-bounds looming left.

The adulation he received at Portrush can only push him on to bigger-and-better things I believe.

Had he won the Open this week the reception he received on the 72nd green wouldn’t have been too much better than what it was on Friday.

Friday will surely do great things for Rory, but how can he go to play with freedom and confidence?

Rory wants to be loved and appreciated, but in recent years he has been weighed down by negativity.

Negativity over his Major performances, negativity over his honest comments in the media, negativity over his schedule, his choice over which country to represent in the Olympics.

The negativity has surely been weighing him down.

Rory is a normal bloke from Holywood, Belfast with a special, natural talent for golf.

He wasn’t bred for stardom and his every move to be scrutinised and criticised.

“I never wanted to be famous. I wanted to be known for my golf and that was it,” he said at Wentworth last year.

After Friday at Portrush, Rory will have been heartbroken but also feeling more love than he’ll have ever felt from the wider golf/sporting audience.

That will surely do great things for him.

McIlroy will head to Memphis for the WGC next week where nobody will be surprised if he wins.

In fact, nobody will be surprised if he wins multiple times from now until the end of the year and nobody will be surprised if he regains the world number one position either.

That will be great for him but what really matters is the Majors, and the pressure will be right back on him in his very next Major start at Augusta next year where he’ll once again go for the career slam.

Will he do it next year? Quite possibly.

He’ll have learnt an awful lot both about himself and his golf game this week which will only do good things for him going forward…I hope.

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